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“The Philippines actually celebrates the Anniversary of the Proclamation of its Independence on 12 June, but as you can see, it was such a joyous occasion that it now takes us a month to celebrate,” Consul General Henry S. Bensurto, Jr. said to an audience of over 6,000 people at Union Square, at the Bay Area’s closing celebration on 21 June.  By that time, flag raising ceremonies, parades and celebrations had already been held in over ten cities throughout the Bay Area.

On 12 June 2014, a simple flag raising ceremony was held at the Social Hall of the Philippine Center.  Philippine Consul General to San Francisco Henry S. Bensurto, Jr. led the ceremonies.  During his remarks, Consul General Bensurto stressed the importance of having a principled foreign policy and how this has elevated the Philippines in the esteem of our neighbors. He also added that “[the Philippines] must safeguard and protect what we have accomplished.”

Consul General Henry S. Bensurto, Jr. shares President Benigno S. Aquino’s Independence Day message to the officers and staff of the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco.

The City of San Francisco also joined in commemorating this historical event as a flag raising ceremony was also held in the Balcony of City Hall.  Mayor Edwin Lee and Consul General Bensurto together raised the Philippine flag, as PCG officers, staff and some FilAm city officials and community leaders sang the Philippine national anthem. The program was a short tribute to the extraordinary relationship that San Francisco has enjoyed with Manila and the Philippines, as well as the significant contributions of Filipino Americans to the city.  In light of this relationship, Mayor Edwin Lee presented a Proclamation to Consul General Bensurto proclaiming the 12th of June, 2014 as Filipino-American Friendship and Heritage Day.

Top photo: The officers of the SF PCG lead the singing of the Philippine National Anthem at the balcony of San Francisco City Hall.  Bottom left photo: SF Mayor Edwin Lee looks on during the flag raising ceremony.  Bottom right photo:  Mayor Lee present a Proclamation to Consul General Bensurto that declares 12 June 2014 as Filipino-American Friendship and Heritage Day.

A fitting finale to all the Philippine Independence Day festivities ws the Kalayaan SF 2014, a two-day festival that highlighted Filipino ingenuity and presented to the mainstream public the best that Filipinos have to offer.  As a reflection of events that transpired in the Philippines the previous year, the theme for the second Kalayaan SF is Celebrating the Filipino Spirit: Resilience, Moving Forward and Giving Back. This is the second year of the Kalayaan Festival, which is organized by Filipino American community leaders in the Bay Area and the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco.

Left photo: Consul General Henry Bensurto, Jr., Science and Technology Advisory Council (STAC) President Christina Laskowski and Philippine Trade Commissioner to Los Angeles Jose Ma. Dinsay in one of the panels during the Latitude/Longitude Business Conference.  Right photo: Filipinas in business namely Giselle Arroyo of VuQo, Teresa Chua of Consultthread, Sonia Delen of Bank of America Meryl Lynch and Stella Luluquisen of STAC-SV.

Kalayaan SF 2014 started off once again with a business conference entitled the Latitude/Longitude Business Conference.  Held on 20 June 2014 at the Philippine Center Gallery, this event was organized by the Science and Technology Advisory Council, Silicon Valley in partnership with the Philippine Consulate General and the Kalayaan SF Organizing Committee.  Consul General Bensurto, in his keynote address, underscored the good governance agenda of the Aquino Administration and how it spurred the unprecedented economic growth in the Philippines. He also discussed what the Philippines is doing to promote regional peace and stability, which is the needed to sustain the region’s economic prosperity.

The conference put in focus the role of the Philippines in ASEAN, in terms of innovation, business and entrepreneurship.  Various Filipino American companies and start-ups as well as Philippine social enterprises under GKnomics (Gawad Kalinga) were featured.  A panel on successful Filipinas in the business industry was another highlight of the event.

Top photos: Cultural performances around Union Square during Kalayaan SF 2014.  Bottom left photo: Commissioner Hydra Mendoza signs her profile on the “Meet Your Heroes” Wall.  Bottom right photo: Consul General Henry Bensurto and Deputy Consul General Jaime Ramon Ascalon greet guests during Kalayaan SF 2014.

The second day of Kalayaan SF 2014 witnessed an expo that featured Filipino businesses, art, and culture.  Held on 21 June 2014 at Union Square Park, San Francisco locals and tourists were treated to a taste of Filipino culture, as well as the Filipino way of carrying out a celebration. On Saturday, Filipino food, art, dances, songs and businesses took over Union Square Park, much to the enjoyment of general public.  In every inch of the city’s renowned landmark, one can find cultural performances such as folk dances from various regions of the Philippines.  Musical performances such as the rondalla and the kulintang were given a modern twist.  Visual installations that showcased the artistic and creative talent of FilAm artists can also be found on the Square.  Successful Filipino Americans in the field of politics, business, art and entertainment were honored as modern-day heroes.  Among those honored were Assemblymember Rob Bonta, Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves, Daly City Councilmember Ray Buenaventura, Colma Councilmember Joanne Del Rosario, SF Commissioners Hydra Mendoza and Al Perez, Author Geraldine Solon, News Anchor Henni Espinosa and Radio DJ Freska Griarte.

Left photo: It’s more fun in the Philippine Consulate General’s booth.  Right photo: Consul Reginald Bernabe (right) with registrants for Overseas Voting.

As a way to reach out to the public, the Philippine Consulate General conducted an Overseas Voting Registration during Kalayaan SF 2014.  Kababayans were able to register as voters for the 2016 Presidential Elections without having to take time off their busy schedules during the weekday.  As a result, a total of 45 voters were registered during the event.

Left photo: Cynthia Alexander.  Right photo: Julianne Manalo

Filipino singer Erik Santos sings to his fans during Kalayaan SF 2014.

The day’s festivities concluded with a mini-concert.  Filipino artist, Cynthia Alexander, wowed the crowd with her unique sound.  The Filipino Channel (TFC) was present to entertain the public.  TFC hosts Lee Robin Salazar and Michi Salta engaged the public in a fun game, while the assembled crowd was later serenaded by popular Filipino singer Erik Santos.  The concert ended with a number by rising FilAm recording artist Julianne Manalo, who gave a powerful performance of her own.

Other cities in the Bay Area that commemorated Philippine Independence include Sacramento, Vallejo, Alameda, Hayward, Milpitas and San Jose.